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The monkey beetle and the daisy - Walk in Africa
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Walk in Africa / Cape Peninsula  / The monkey beetle and the daisy
29 Aug

The monkey beetle and the daisy

It was a glorious winter day – twenty one degrees centigrade, clear sky and not a breath of wind. I was strolling along the spine of unique mountains that stretch from Table Mountain to Cape Point having yet another tough day in the office*! The flower season was definitely beginning and I was delighted by the bursts of colour along the path. Predictably for this time of year there were many Babiana villosula or bobbejaantjies – most of them already past their prime. These gorgeous members of the Iris and Gladiolus family are sometimes referred to as baboon bulbs, because Chacma baboons are said to relish eating their bulbs. Personally, I have not seen the local baboons targeting these plants – unfortunately they mostly seem to be perfecting their skills at breaking into motor vehicles and eating sandwiches.

I was especially thrilled to see Babiana ringens in abundance. This striking-looking flower is rather rudely known as rotstert (rat’s tail) in Afrikaans, referring to its hairy, leafless, arched main stem. This species is not usually abundant, but the fire that swept across the south peninsula earlier this year obvious

ly created ideal conditions for it to flourish.

I was stopped in my tracks by a spectacular Arctotis acaulis. This flower is commonly known as the gousblom, but to you and me it is a daisy – one of many hundreds in this family. As I was taking a photo of the flower I noticed that it was hosting a Monkey Beetle – which is visible on the left side of the centre of the daisy in the photo below.

These entertaining beetles belong to a group which is found only in southern Africa. They are small and hairy with conspicuously long hind legs, which they use in combat between one another. These beetles are suckers for the colour yellow and are unable to pass a yellow flower without stopping. Their hairy legs are perfect for collecting and distributing pollen, and these beetles are amongst the most important pollinators of peninsula flowers.

Yellow flowers are an important social meeting place for these beetles and it is here that they meet their mates. Perhaps they are inspired by the romantic venue, because when they eventually do find a suitable mate their sexual indulgence can last up to an hour. Flowers, sunshine and sex in the flowers – life is tough at the southern tip of Africa.

(*) For more about my idea of a tough day in the office have a look at: www.walkinafrica.com/south-africa-mountains-sea.html